Internationalizing Jerusalem’s Old City is a bad idea, and not just on religious or nationalistic grounds. Religiously, internationalization is perhaps even preferable to controlling the Mount but not building the Temple. Internationalization would serve the government’s goal of replacing Jewish values with Israeli jingoism: the morale of religious or nationalist Jews would be devastated if we abandoned the holy basin.

But internationalization is a bad interpretation of Rabin’s idea. Long before Begin signed a peace treaty with Sadat, Rabin made a highly controversial intermediate agreement with Egypt on disengagement in Sinai. Rabin’s idea was that peace is a step-by-step process of building trust between parties. Short of a more traditional alternative, devastation, Rabin could have been right. Indeed, most of the Israeli establishment at the time subscribed to the incremental improvement doctrine. Traces of this doctrine can still be seen today in Lieberman’s calls for a peace treaty with the Palestinians, or in the leasing of the Golan Heights from Syria for 99 years to ensure that relations are indeed normalized. Rabin insisted on diffusion and disengagement as preconditions for peace. He noted correctly that a peace treaty would be impossible amid daily clashes between Israeli and Egyptian troops in Sinai. Years later he changed his mind and agreed to negotiate with terrorists under fire, saying, “We will negotiate as if there is no terror, and fight terrorists as if there are no negotiations.”

Rabin’s initial logic was lost on Olmert, who offered the Palestinians international control over the Old City. This control is not really international: the council would have a built-in Muslim majority. Nor was the offer really Olmert’s. Even Begin mused that he wouldn’t be around by the time the issue of Jerusalem is discussed. Curiously, the only major politician who vehemently opposed a deal on Jerusalem was Shimon Peres—before he became a radical peace advocate in an effort to woo Labor’s leftist activists away from Rabin during his bank account crisis.

Imagine the practicalities. Jews apply to the UN’s Waqf to conduct renovations at the Western Wall; delays in granting the permit are trumpeted in Israeli press. Archeological digs are banned. Muslims embellish Al Aqsa with Saudi money and construct freely on the Temple Mount site. Russia demands to be included in the council, and immediately clashes with Armenia and the Vatican, which in turn clashes with the Evangelicals. Checkpoints are set up all around the Old City, with border police and customs officials at every gate. Since the Palestinians continue to engage in terrorism, long lines and racial profiling become a permanent feature at the checkpoints, as does barbed wire. Inefficient UN forces cannot prevent Arab attacks on Jewish residents of the Old City, at which point Israeli police have to cross into the international zone.

Internationalization of the Old City would create a perfectly explosive mixture in which enemies rub against each other while their respective societies, dissatisfied with the arrangement, hungrily wait for sparks. Far from a settlement to facilitate peace, internationalization is certain to perpetuate war.

As if a 3,000-year-long war is not perpetual.